Brave Jim Brady of the Washington Post drags out some more excuses so he can shoot them dead in the alley:
Instead of mollifying angry readers, the clarification prompted more than 400 additional comments over the next five hours, many of them so crude as to be unprintable in a family newspaper.
Out in the Web woodshed, a handful of bloggers called me gutless or a puppet; some of them compared me to assorted body parts and characterized me as the worst person to come along since, well, Deborah Howell. And any nasty posts I didn’t see myself, my friends gleefully provided to me via e-mail. A few friends said they came close to jumping online to defend me, but chose not to for fear they’d be next in line for a public flogging.
Jim, Jim, Jim, Jim, Jim. Listen, pal, not to play “you think you’ve got problems?” or anything, but being called names isn’t, like, the worst thing in the world, okay? If people say you don’t have any [censored], maybe it’s because in response to vociferous criticism, you and your employee Deboarah Howell whined like somebody had come to your office and thrown rocks at your head. There’s a list of people with harder jobs than you, and it’s a very long list. It starts out with some of your own reporters who are holed up in Baghdad trying not to get blown up. I wonder what they think about you trumpeting your survival in the face of such unimaginable torment. Oh NOES!!11!, somebody hates you on the Internet!
How did it feel to be mugged by the blogosphere?
I don’t really care. Show of hands, who wants to talk about Jim’s feelings?
God, and here I was going around saying newsrooms are generally staffed by tough bastards who got the shit beat out of them in high school and know how not to take crap from people. Where did you come from, Jimbo, the sports department? You’re supposed to wear your journalistic scars like medals, not wander around crying and asking for a bandaid because somebody called you an asshole in public. You work for the Washington Post. Did you really think it was gonna be like the Beaver County Tidbit and you wouldn’t have to listen to anybody? Scratch that, the Little League coaches in Beaver County probably give the Tidbit reporters far more shit than the bloggers give the Washington Post.
For all the good things it has brought our society, the Web has also fostered ideological hermits, who only talk to folks who believe exactly what they do. This creates an echo chamber that only further convinces people that they are right, and everyone else is not only wrong, but an idiot or worse. So when an incident like this one arises, it’s not enough to point out an error; they must prove that the error had nefarious origins. In some places on the Web, everything happens on a grassy knoll.
Another culprit in Web rage: the Internet’s anonymity. It seems to flick off the inhibition switch that stops people from saying certain things in person. During the Howell flap, many of the e-mails I received that called me gutless, a coward or both were unsigned.
Yes, we’re just so angry. You know why we’re angry? People are dying and we can’t trust you to tell us the truth and help us stop it. That’s really it, to boil it down into demi-glace for you. We need you to ask the questions and tell us the answers and you don’t seem able to do that. Before you criticize us for our anger you might want to think a little bit about what exactly is pissing us off. It’s as if there’s no reason for anger anymore, no justification for passionate political action and no cause or aim worth getting all worked up about. I suppose it would be quieter on these here Internets if we all discussed things in the half-truthy, mealy-mouthed manner to which Washington politicians are accustomed, but I don’t think it would be better. The world is a profoundly fucked up place right now, and it’s not okay not to be angry about that.
This whole column of Brady’s is just so goddamn degrading and it makes me ashamed. During my years reporting, a Catholic bishop called me a liar to my face, a football player threatened to kill me, and a whole mess of people told me I and my newspaper deserved to burn in hell. After a story about race relations a guy on the phone called me a “white racist bitch” and that was among the nicer things on my voice mail that day. Another guy named me in the most frivolous defamation suit I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. People do criticize you. If they’re right and you fucked up, you suck it up, apologize, run a correction, have a drink and move on. If they’re not right, you hang up, laugh about the morons, and crack jokes about your mom pasting your very first lawsuit into your scrapbook.
That’s why people are still pissed at ya, Jim. In the face of incontrovertible evidence that you had screwed up, you fapped around and dithered and said things like “inartfully worded” and talked about how everybody who pointed out the mistake was a vicious conspiracy theorist posting nasty profanity all over your pretty website. You should have just said, we fucked up, here’s what we should have said, sorry. And then let everybody say what they wanted. It would have been over in a day.
Instead you had to go out there and keep right on wanking away, and saying that mean old Internet is just too much to take. A blogosphere mugging? Come on, Jim. Nothing happened to you.